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Backgrounder if a Cease-fire Does Take Hold, Tenet, Mitchell Plans then Kick in

March 20, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The guideposts to ending the 18-month-old Palestinian intifada remain plans submitted by two senior American officials.

First came former Sen. George Mitchell, champion of the peace pact in northern Ireland. He was followed by CIA Director George Tenet.

Both have failed — but their drafts have become the cornerstones for subsequent attempts to end the escalating violence.

The Mitchell committee was composed of a highly respected international cast: Suleyman Demirel, former president of Turkey; Thorbjoern Jagland, foreign minister of Norway; former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman; and Javier Solana, a leading European Union official.

The committee first arrived on the scene in December 2000, when Ehud Barak was still Israel’s prime minister, and concluded its work four months later.

On April 30, 2001, the committee issued a report calling for the immediate cessation of violence — and, later, a freeze on Israeli settlement-building — but refrained from blaming either side for the outbreak of hostilities.

The plan was intended a ladder allowing both Israelis and Palestinians to climb down from the high intifada tree.

The main points of the 32-page report were:

Israel and the Palestinian Authority should immediately implement an unconditional cease-fire.

The two sides should immediately resume security cooperation.

A “cooling-off period” would be followed by confidence-building measures.

The sides would condemn and discourage all forms of incitement.

The Palestinian Authority would make clear that terrorism is unacceptable and make a complete effort to prevent terrorist operations and punish perpetrators. The effort would include immediate steps to arrest and jail terrorists.

Israel would freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the “natural growth” of existing settlements.

The Palestinian Authority would prevent gunmen from using civilian areas to stage attacks on Israelis.

Israel should lift closures, transfer to the Palestinian Authority all tax revenues frozen since the intifada began, permit Palestinians who worked in Israel to return to their jobs, and make sure soldiers and settlers do not damage Palestinian homes, roads, trees and other agricultural property.

Israel reacted favorably to the report, albeit with reservations — particularly about the linkage between an end to violence and end to settlement building.

For their part, the Palestinians were disappointed that the committee did not recommend an international force for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Enter CIA chief Tenet, who came to the region after the Mitchell process failed to take hold and issued a new report on June 13. Tenet’s main goal was to put in place a cease-fire that would allow for implementation of the Mitchell report.

The main point in Tenet’s report eventually turned out to be its main obstacle. At the insistence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Tenet document in effect assumed a period of seven days without attacks as a condition for moving forward.

With the Palestinians unable or unwilling to stop their attacks for a week, the process never advanced. Even during the calmest periods, there was enough violence to render the rest of the plan moot.

The main points in the Tenet plan were:

Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to reestablish security cooperation and, within one week, to return the situation on the ground to what existed before the intifada began on Sept. 28, 2000.

A demonstrable on-the-ground redeployment of Israel forces would begin within the first 48 hours of the one-week period.

Within a week of resuming security cooperation, a timeline would be developed for Israel to lift the closures it imposed on Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to reopen roads, the Allenby Bridge, Gaza Airport, the Gaza seaport and border crossings. Israeli checkpoints would be minimized, according to legitimate security requirements, following consultation between the two sides.

Even if violence flared, the two sides would continue security cooperation through a joint committee.

Both Sharon and Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer were aware of the operational shortcomings of the plan. For example, Israel pledged not to initiate military operations in Area A, zones ostensibly under full Palestinian control.

As things turned out, the violent reality on the ground outpaced the diplomatic efforts and documents. The Palestinians did not detain terrorists or confiscate illegal weapons, as they had pledged. As one terrorist attack followed another, Israel returned to military operations inside Palestinian-held territories and the military consultations came to a standstill.

However, the last chapter in the Mitchell-Tenet saga has not been written. Two weeks ago, facing intense American and international pressure, Sharon agreed to give up his demand for a week without attacks as a pre-condition to negotiations — breaking, in effect, his long-standing pledge not to negotiate under fire.

With the latest U.S. envoy, Anthony Zinni, in the region, the two sides still are pursuing a cease-fire that would set the Tenet and Mitchell plans in motion.

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